Braves Hitters Live And Die By The Count

Okay, so all hitters live and die by the count. No one is going to be surprised when I tell them that the Braves' hitters do much better after reaching a 2-0 count than they do after reaching an 0-2 count. But perhaps these facts will surprise you:

  • The Braves have hit .306 / .526 / .589 in 580 PAs after getting to a 2-0 count this year. That 1.115 OPS is the best mark in MLB. The MLB averages after a 2-0 count are .285 / .506 / .473 (.979 OPS).
  • On the other hand, the Braves have hit only .132 / .163 / .180 in 686 PAs after getting to an 0-2 count. That .343 OPS is the worst in MLB. The MLB averages after an 0-2 count are .168 / .196 / .247 (.444 OPS).

When they get ahead in the count 2-0, the Braves have perhaps the best offense in baseball. When they get behind in the count 0-2, they have perhaps the worst offense in baseball. They're in the middle of the pack after a 1-1 count as well as when they put the ball in play on one of the first two pitches.

So it seems to be particularly important for Braves hitters to get ahead in the count, even more so than it is for other teams. Why is this? I have some theories, but they'll have to wait for another post.

So which Braves hitters have been best at getting to these advantageous 2-0 counts, and which have been worst at avoiding harmful 0-2 counts? The answer is after the jump.

The chart below shows the count breakdown for each of the Braves' 10 most-used hitters. It shows the number and percentage of 2-0 counts, the number and percentage of 0-2 counts, and the ratio of 2-0 counts to 0-2 counts. For this ratio, higher is better (more 2-0 counts). The league averages for are in the last row of the table.

Player PA 2-0% 2-0 PA 0-2% 0-2 PA 2-0 to 0-2 Ratio
Nate McLouth 283 21% 59 14% 40 1.48
Brian McCann 349 19% 67 14% 49 1.37
Chipper Jones 329 16% 53 13% 42 1.26
Eric Hinske 183 25% 45 21% 38 1.18
Jason Heyward 273 18% 49 16% 43 1.13
Freddie Freeman 375 16% 60 18% 68 0.88
Dan Uggla 397 15% 58 17% 69 0.84
Martin Prado 304 15% 46 20% 61 0.75
Jordan Schafer 210 13% 28 22% 47 0.60
Alex Gonzalez 376 11% 43 23% 86 0.50
MLB Averages
14%
19%
0.77
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 7/20/2011.

As you can see, many Braves players have done an excellent job of working the count to their favor, led by Nate McLouth, who has been much better than Braves fans have given him credit for. In fact, 7 of the 10 regulars have above average ratios, and Prado's ratio is just slightly below average. Even Dan Uggla, who has struggled mightily in other areas, has good marks here.

The players who are holding the Braves back with their poor approaches are pretty clear: Jordan Schafer and Alex Gonzalez. They are the only two to see fewer 2-0 counts than average and also have the two highest proportions of 0-2 counts. Gonzalez's 0.50 ratio is likely one of the lowest in baseball among regular players.

Gonzalez and Schafer also have particularly terrible numbers after reaching an 0-2 count: a .199 OPS for Sea Bass and a .236 OPS for Schafer. (Remember, the average OPS in that spot is .444.) These troubles may be just a small-sample-size fluke, but they have only aggravated the plate discipline problems.

Chipper Jones and Jason Heyward also have awful numbers in this split (.220 OPS for Chipper, .163 for Heyward), but at least they don't get into that situation nearly as often. Both of these guys also have excelled after getting ahead 2-0 (1.337 OPS for Chipper, 1.343 OPS for Heyward), something they do quite often.

I'd love to see the Braves bring in players with better plate discipline to take away some of Schafer's and Gonzalez's at-bats. I don't necessarily want to replace them altogether--both players have substantial defensive value--but it would be nice to at least have viable offensive alternatives. Right now, it is highly doubtful that their defensive prowess is making up for their offensive shortcomings.

Besides, I'm honestly just sick of watching terrible at-bats. I wish that Fredi and the rest of Braves management were sick of it, too.

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